1938: Albert Dyer, sex killer (presumably)

On this date in 1938, Albert Dyer hanged at California’s San Quentin prison for a triple rape-murder.

Dyer is a very modern bugbear, a monster right out of cable news and amber alerts and stranger danger.

As often with those, his path to infamy began with disappeared white girls — Jeanette Stephens, Melba Everett, and Madeline Everett, all ages 7 to 9 — who went to picnic at an Inglewood park one summer afternoon and never came home.

The police set about hunting for any known sex offenders in the area, but the offense would ultimately be attributed to a neighbor who was active with the concerned search parties that scoured the area.

Induced by a police threat to deliver him into the hands of a lynch mob, Dyer admitted to having lured the girls off on the pretext of catching rabbits, then strangling them to death and raping their corpses.

(Here’s a disturbing set of photos of the girls’ bodies.)

Dyer attempted to repudiate these confessions, which you’d have to say were obtained under a bit of duress. The case against him apart from self-incrimination was a tissue of meager circumstantial evidence; Dyer’s persona smacks of mental deficiency that might have left him easy prey for manipulation by his captors.

Newspapers described Dyer as “dull” and “stupid”, and in fact the defense attempted to cast doubt on the prisoner’s mental competence and the reliability of his confessions. The jury took agonizing days to reach a consensus, and the last man holding out against conviction would later say that he finally gave in after being led to believe that the judge considered Dyer guilty. (This revelation was among the defense’s last arguments for executive clemency, at the end of the process.)

In short, for all the horror of the crime, the case was not cut and dried in 1938. The passage of time — with our latter-day awareness of false confessions and developmental disability — will hardly make it more so, unless some forgotten crime locker still preserves a testable genetic sample. But no surprise, the popular press had a different take. The Los Angeles Times editorialized (Aug. 27, 1937) anticipating that

[t]he verdict of a jury that Albert Dyer must die for the murder of three Inglewood children is a long step toward the eradication of sex crime in California. It is the only outcome of the case that public opinion could afford to sanction.

The evidence against Dyer was overwhelming; and there could be no mitigating circumstance which could justify this State in letting such a miscreant go on living.

Even if Dyer is mentally defective, there is no reason for his continued existence. He could never be safe to have at large. Legally, his condition is not insanity; he knew what he was doing and that it was wrong. Eradication of such types is necessary for public safety.

And the death penalty is the best deterrent. If others have this criminal tendency, his fate may cause them to repress it. Dyer, hanged, may save the lives of countless California innocents. In any scale, the safety of children must weigh more heavily than his forfeited right to live.

Dyer was the second-last person hanged by the Golden State before the gas chamber came online to replace the gallows. His legacy was California’s 1939 passage of a law governing (pdf) the handling of “Sexual Psychopaths”. (This site suggests he was also posthumously exploited for the cause of marijuana criminalization.)

Part of the Themed Set: Americana.

On this day..

4 thoughts on “1938: Albert Dyer, sex killer (presumably)

  1. Sue A. Kopulos, I’m sorry to hear how haunted you were, and you were wrongfully haunted.

    Isabel Dyer was taken into custody as a “material witness” at the same time Albert Dyer arrested. She was kept in custody all through the trial and after she was sent back to Sonoma State Home. She was still institutionalized there at the 1940 census under her maiden name. Email me if you want details.


    Albert Dyer was innocent. See my new book “Colder Case: How California Executed the Wrong Man and Left a Serial Killer Free to Stalk Children.”


    or at Amazon: amazon.com/author/wrongful_execution

    It deals in detail how Dyer was wrongfully convicted due to a false confession, with forensic science proof his confession had to be false.

    • Thank you so much for your info! I will purchase the book today. I may have questions for you later on…. Thanks again!

  2. In 1972, it was brought to my attention that I had a Great Uncle that was executed, but my Aunts never gave any details. (Oddly enough, they shared this info with me during my bridal shower… in front of my soon to be Mother-In-Law) This thought haunted me ever since I was informed of this matter and it was just recently that I found Albert Dyer’s story. Albert was my Grandmother’s brother, my Father, who was born in 1932, was named after him. Dad changed his name to “Bill” and he never explained the reason why, we just knew that he hated the name Albert. This story is among some very dark family secrets. Can you find out who were the neighbors that went into hiding when Albert’s wife Isabelle did?? I read another article that stated that she along with some neighbors left the area to avoid the lynch mobs… Albert lived with my Grandparents (per the 1930 census) in Ononadaga, Michigan. Was it possible that my grandparents moved to California with Albert and Isabelle… and then came back to Michigan after the murders?

  3. Pingback: ExecutedToday.com » Themed Set: Americana

Comments are closed.